October of 2003, Mary, Lexie, my brother Bob, and I had dinner with Jim
Marilyn Lovell at their restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois.
This is my story about that event.
Lovell dining experience became available to us through the Astronaut
Foundation. We had already had several
other experiences with astronauts through the foundation and each one
was very special.
the dates for these experiences were set up through communication with
foundation. I was shocked one day when I received an email directly
Lovell. He was contacting me to try and
arrange the date for our dinner. After a
few emails back and forth we set up the date for the dinner to be
Lexie, and I flew to Chicago
on Thursday evening October 23, 2003 on a United Airlines flight. The flight was not very full with only about
50 people on the plane. I must
complement the flight attendants on their service.
They treated everyone like they were in first
paid for our first two glasses of wine. After
that the flight attendants brought us wine
from first class in
actual wine glasses and not the standard plastic cups.
had finished the second glass of wine and a steward came around and
asked us if
we would like another. The dumb founded look on my face must have been
priceless. So off he went and fetched us
more wine. Then shortly before we landed
the stewardess from first class came by with the bottle and filled us
up again. She didn’t even ask us if we
also brought hot freshly baked cookies back to us and gave Lexie a
beaded necklace that she, the stewardess, had put together. It was just amazing service.
As we exited the plane, I complemented the
stewardess and told her that was the best flight I have had in a long
time. She pursed her lips in a kissing
shape and told me "You kiss up so well!" What
a nice way to start the trip.
took a taxi over from the airport to a motel in a suburb of Chicago
called Lincolnshire. It
was quite a ways from the airport and cost
us $60 to get out there! Still it was
better than having my brother Bob fight his way to the airport after he
for 5.5 hours from Michigan. Bob
was already at the motel when we got
we left Dallas
the temperature was about 90 degrees. When we got to Chicago
the temperature was in the lower 40s! That
was quite a change.
morning we drove South past downtown Chicago
and went to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
It took us almost two hours to get there from
where we were staying. Well Okay, we did
stop for breakfast along the way.
museum was much different than what I had imagined it would be like. I was expecting something like the
Smithsonian, but it was more of a kid oriented hands on place. I did however want to see the Zephyr train
they have on display as well as the Apollo 8 command module.
was very nice to see the command module from a mission so significant
8. It was also nice to show Lexie, Scott Carpenter’s Aurora Mercury
spacecraft. Earlier that summer,
Lexie had dinner with
the man who flew it.
were also several artifacts from Apollo 8 on loan to the museum from
Lovell. One of the artifacts was listed
as the first and only bottle of brandy ever flown to the Moon. The bottle had never been opened.
artifact on display was the helmet that Jim Lovell would have worn on
during Apollo 13. I really wanted to see
that. Of all of the lunar space suit helmets, his was the only one that
blue navy anchor sticker affixed at the front of the red stripe.
had noticed this anchor during the movie, Apollo 13 and in 1995 at a
Lovell. I asked him if his helmet really looked that way.
His response then was, "Yes it was
accurate and it shows what level of detail the film crew went to in
make the film accurate." He also
said that his actual helmet could be seen at the museum in Chicago. So
for me to see his helmet in person was a
multi year follow-up to my original question.
was rather disappointed with the manner in which the space artifacts
displayed. I really don't think they
were given the proper respect. The
display seemed haphazard to me.
was also in the lobby of the Omnimax Theater. So
you did get a lot of traffic through there for
people to see the
stuff. However, I think they need a lot
of work on their display techniques.
the museum we also saw an Omnimax film called "Wild Chimpanzees of
Africa" by Jane Goodall. It was a
great movie. By this time it was time to
head back to our motel and get rested up for the big event of this trip. I wanted to make sure that we were not too
tired for the evening.
I was making our travel reservations, I selected the location of our
be very close to Lovell's restaurant. We
were supposed to meet Jim at the restaurant at 7:00 PM and we got there
about 6:45. I thought the building
looked very impressive. It appeared to
me that they only offered valet parking.
identified ourselves to the hostess and she said, "The Captain is
for you down stairs. I'll let him know
you are here." Up the stairs came Captain James Lovell, the Commander
our email contacts were communicating on a fist name basis. I
to Jim. I also introduced Jim to Bob,
Lexie, and Mary. He seemed to already
know who was who in our party. Jim
seemed to be in a genuinely good mood and took us down stairs to what
"The Captain's Quarters" to meet Marilyn.
had an unusual bout of stage fright and momentarily refused to walk
stairs. Jim offered to take us down, via
the elevator. I explained to Jim that she would be OK.
I was holding Lexie’s hand to walk down the
stairs. Lexie changed which hand she held my hand with and grabbed the
staircase railing with her other hand. After
that she was fine.
walked past the cigar bar and over to a leather couch in front of a
fireplace. Jim introduced us to Marilyn.
He offered us drinks when the waiter came over. Mary, Lexie, and I sat
couch. Bob sat across from Marilyn in a
wing back chair and Jim sat on the edge of the couch, slightly elevated
us. The waiter brought our white wines
and Lexie's Coke. Jim also had white
wine and Marilyn had a cocktail.
had a very nice conversation. It was obvious the pride that Jim took in
restaurant. Several times he mentioned
that he would give us a tour of the artifacts on display later, just to
back and relax for now.
the mantle of the fireplace were copies of the trophies that had been
to Jim. One was the Collier Trophy
awarded to the crew of Apollo 8. Another
was a "Lone Sailor" trophy he received only a couple of weeks ago for
a lifetime of achievement in the Navy. The
third trophy I do not recall what it was.
was a coffee table in between the couch and the fireplace.
Jim pointed out that displayed under the
glass of the coffee table was a 3-D topographic map of one of the lunar
asked Jim which Apollo mission that was from. He
answered that it was from Apollo 17. I
told him that I actually have that very same
topographic map hanging
on a wall in my home. I really liked the
way that he had his displayed much better and told him that I was
figure out a good way to display it.
spoke about writing the book "Lost Moon". I
asked him how he became involved with the
co-author Jeffrey Kluger. He said that
Kluger had written him a letter telling him that he had written several
articles for Discover magazine and always wanted to write a book.
thought Apollo 13 would make a great story. Coincidentally,
Jim was also thinking about writing
a book about Apollo
13 at the same time. So they got
together and wrote one of the chapters in the middle of the book.
publicist then shopped that chapter around to various publishers. Several
publishers turned them down. It was
to Jim at the time, but the publicist also shopped the chapter around
a publishing contract was signed. At
about the same time a movie studio bought the rights for the film. The interest by the Hollywood
studio was a big shock to Jim since they had only written one chapter
asked if it was Ron Howard who had bought the rights initially. Jim’s response was no and that Tom Hanks is
the one who actually convinced Ron Howard to do the movie.
some point the conversation focused on my interest in the space program
mentioned that I had attended five launches of the space shuttle. I told them that I had seen two launches from
the causeway, two launches from the press site, and one launch from the
site. Jim asked if I had attended any of
the launches of the old missions but said “I suppose you’re not old
told him that I was old enough to remember them. However,
since I had grown up in Nebraska, Florida
was too far away for me to attend any of the old launches.
I told him that during Apollo 8 I was perched
in front of our black and white television with an old box camera.
took photos of his mission off of the television. I
told Jim that I had a photo of the Apollo 8
liftoff that Frank Borman had signed for me and I wished I had brought
me, but had forgotten it at home.
then made a comment about how I was kind of like Tom Hanks with his
for the program while growing up. Bob
mentioned that I was always a real space enthusiast even as a young
child. He told them that I had even named
after astronauts. Jim laughed and said
he didn't know if he wanted to hear about that.
then explained about three pigs that I raised in 1969, that I named
and Michael. Bob said that Neil was
really big too, about 500 or 600 pounds. I
told the Jim and Marylyn that I had Neil up until
I left for college at
which time she had passed away.
had told Jim that we had visited the Chicago Museum of Science and
earlier in the day. We informed him that
we had seen his spacecraft. Jim
mentioned that all spacecraft are on loan from the Smithsonian and that
be interesting if the Smithsonian ever recalls the Apollo 8 command
when the theater was built they had to lower it through the uncompleted
none of the doors are wide enough to accommodate its 13 foot girth. The dome was then cemented, so technically
there is no way out for the command module.
told Jim that we had seen the bottle of brandy he had brought back from
Moon and asked him why it was still full. Jim
said, “Well I thought it would be worth more if
it wasn't opened”. He said that was the
first alcohol ever taken
into space but that he assumes there has been more since then with the
station. I said with the Russians
involved I'm sure there has. He said yes
and that would certainly be Vodka.
pointed to a bronze statue that was sitting on a table behind the couch. He said that this was a smaller version of a
statue of Jack Swigert. It was created for the "Hall of Heroes" in
the Capital building in Washington, DC. Every
state is allowed to have two statues in
this hall. A few years ago, Colorado
realized they only had one statue.
a voter referendum, it was decided that they would use a statue of
their second statue. Swigert as you may
recall was elected to Congress from Colorado
but never was able to serve. He passed
away from cancer before ever taking office.
never realized that there was such a statue in the Capital and told Jim
Marilyn that I would have to visit it. They
said that it would probably be hard to find
because the house
keepers of statues don't like it very much. The
bronze statue has a white patina on the space
suit portion of
it. Apparently, the house keepers think
it's too hard to keep clean.
continued by saying that when it was delivered to the capital the
refused to unload it and move it into place. Somebody
from the Colorado congressional
delegation noticed a group of Boy Scouts touring the capital. They enlisted the scouts to come over and
move the statue onto its pedestal.
then took us for a tour of the lower level of the restaurant. The first
was at the glass display cases at the end of the room.
He wanted to show us the artifacts displayed
in those cases.
item that Jim pointed out was a moon rock replica that Marilyn had
Jim on their wedding anniversary. Their anniversary was June 6th. Coincidentally, the night that we were at
Lovell’s restaurant was Mary and my wedding anniversary.
pointed out an optical sight from one of his spacecraft and I asked if
from Aquarius. He responded that no, the
one from Aquarius was actually at his home.
noticed a stainless steel model of a Gemini Titan rocket that was
Jim for one of his Gemini missions. I
told him that I had a similar model in my collection that had been
Ed White after his mission. I explained
to Jim that I had acquired White’s model in an auction.
we were talking about artifacts, I mentioned that I also had purchased
watch strap the Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon. Jim
said that it sounded like the watch itself was
finally located after
all of these years. I told Jim that I
wasn't convinced that it was the real McCoy yet. Later
it was announced that it was not
pointed to a letter that then President Bill Clinton had sent to him on
anniversary of one of his flights. He
kind of laughed when he pointed it out, so I don't think Jim was a big Clinton
pointed to a stainless steel plaque in the case and asked Jim if that
one that was supposed to have been attached to the leg of the lunar
the moon. Jim said that no, that the
original was actually at home. He then
explained that the one attached to the leg had Ken Mattingly's name on
it. So they came up with one for Jim to
the surface with Jack Swigert's name on it due to the late crew switch.
were many autographed photos on the wall. These
actually were replicas of the originals that
reside in the
Lovell's home. These replica autographs were created for the movie
models in glass cases graced the entrance to this room.
One was a Saturn 5 that was about 4 feet
tall. The other was a Soviet N-1 model. I
pointed to the N-1 and told Lexie that is what the Russians would have
the Moon if Jim had not put them out of business with his Apollo 8
flight. Jim then mentioned that the real
N1 was the
same height as the Saturn 5 even though the models on display didn't
then toured the wine cellar which doubles as a private dining area for
12. The restaurant had such a warm and
atmosphere. I asked Jim if they had
built the restaurant from scratch or if the building already existed. He said that they built it from scratch and
that it took them over a year to get convince the bank which owned the
to sell them the property. With that
delay they had an architect’s plan for the restaurant but no place to
took an elevator back up to the main dining floor.
Our table was waiting for us in a
corner. Marilyn suggested that the men
sit by the wall so that that we didn't have to face the wall. Deferring to her wishes I picked the hardest
to reach chair on the inside. Jim sat to
my left. Marilyn sat next to Jim. Bob sat next to Marilyn. Lexie
was seated next to Bob and Mary was on
my immediate right next to Lexie.
said that he hoped we had not eaten all day because we would get plenty
food. I joked with Jim that he must not
eat here very often because he was way too thin. He said yes, his
be out to here if he ate at the restaurant too often.
waiter brought us menus and gave Jim a wine list. Jim
handed me the wine list and said that I
should pick it out since it was our day. That
put a lot of pressure on me.
didn’t know if Jim planned on picking up the cost of the wine or not.
did, I didn’t want to pick anything too extravagant.
If I was paying for the wine, I did not want
to pick out anything too cheap.
scanned the list and found a white wine by Freemark Abbey that I was
with. I showed the listing to Mary and
asked her if she thought that was OK. It
was a $43 bottle of wine which wasn't the cheapest but certainly was
near the more expensive selections either. I
truly wish Jim had picked the wine.
waiter explained a couple of specials they had on the menu. One was a type of fish called red snapper
that was baked in parchment paper and then filleted and served at your
table. Jim and Marilyn explained that it
was a brand
new entree for the restaurant. The
waiter told Jim that they had reserved two of those specials for our
we wanted them.
was enough of the menu for Mary; she already knew what she wanted. The
intrigued her. Jim said, Okay, we have a
test pilot! Lexie selected the grilled
salmon. Bob selected the New York
strip. Marilyn selected the fillet
mignon. Jim selected the pork chop. Like Marylyn, I selected the fillet mignon. That entrée came with twice baked Yukon
potatoes. Everyone also selected salads
with their meals except for me. I chose
the crab cake appetizer.
waiter brought out the white wine, showing me the bottle. I was shocked
was not a chardonnay. It was from a
grape that I did not recognize. I did
not realize this when I looked at the wine list. I
guess it was the pressure of not wanting to
take too long to make a decision that caused this.
To avoid a scene I decided to risk it and
hope the wine was actually appropriate for our meals.
waiter uncorked the wine and offered me a taste. Time
passed slowly as the liquid flowed over
my pallet. Much to my relief, it was a
good wine and was not too much different than a chardonnay.
pointed out three limited edition lithographs hanging on the wall
us. The lithograph on the right was
called "In the Beginning" by Alan Bean. This
particular piece of art has the
autographs of over 20 of the Apollo era astronauts.
I told Jim that I also had that particular
lithograph in my collection.
also pointed to the lithograph on the left. I
told Jim that I also had that one and that it was
Aviation in Space" by an artist named Rasmussen. Jim
was surprised that I knew the artist and
commented that I must really know my space art.
lithograph in the center I do not have a copy of. It was an Apollo 13
edition piece in Red, White, and Blue, which had been signed by the
crew. I had seen copies of this lithograph before, but have never
Jim said that he had a stack of those at home and probably was going to
them either through an Auction at some place like Superior
or through Kim Poor with Novaspace. I
told him if he every wanted to sell anything and skip the middle man to
also mentioned that he was going to be at Novaspace in a couple of
a private autograph signing. I was aware
of this, but I didn't say too much about it. I
really wanted to see what his feelings were about
but didn’t know how to ask.
answered the question without me having to ask it. He said that he
signing autographs for true collectors, but does not want to sign for
doing this to turn a profit.
put my mind somewhat at ease as I had been hoping to get Jim to sign a
of pictures and a book later in the evening. We
also brought a book of Lexie's called "Grandpa
Takes Me to the
Moon" which she hoped to get signed. I did
not want to impose upon Jim if he was opposed
and Marilyn remarked that I must have quite a collection.
I told them that my goal was to someday build
a museum. Jim seemed intrigued by this. I told him that after I retire I'd like to
have a museum where I could display my space artifacts and educate
the exploration of space.
told them that my house already was like living in a museum. Mary told the Lovell's that we were actually
redecorating the front of the house to display the artifacts more
appropriately. Mary didn't mind my
collecting habit, as it was getting her house remodeled.
I just smiled.
asked what I did for a living and I told him that I was an electrical
and worked for Cisco Systems. I told him
that I designed integrated circuits. I
also explained briefly my employment history. I
told him how I had worked at startup companies
that tend to be
acquired by larger companies. I
mentioned that I one point I worked for Hewlett Packard.
said that he had seen my former CEO a few weeks ago.
Carly Fiorina was at Disney World as were
several astronauts for the opening of the new space ride at Epcot. Jim mentioned that Carly's husband was a
space enthusiast and he was hoping that HP might become a sponsor of
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. I told
Jim that HP already some exposure to space sponsorships as the views of
Mission control have shown HP banners for quite some time.
seemed really surprised by this. He
said, "You mean in Kaliningrad?" I
told him yes, that's the place. This was
really intriguing to Jim and he
seemed to hope this would help him acquire an HP sponsorship. It was fun to watch his "wheels"
turning over this prospect.
salads and my crab cake appetizer were brought out.
Everyone loved the salads and I loved my crab
cakes. Appropriately, they were made
special dinner was brought table side on a cart by the waiter. He then
proceeded to remove the parchment paper and fillet the fish. Bob
this was just like shore lunch in Canada.
told Jim that Bob and I had been fishing in Canada
a couple of years ago. He asked where
and I told him in the Northwest Territories
Slave Lake. Jim
responded that he had been fishing at
Great Slave out of the town of Yellowknife. Bob
explained that we were on the other end
of the lake from Yellowknife.
told Jim the story about our 727 charter flight to our fishing lodge. I
him how amazed we were that the 727 landed on a gravel runway. I also
that we did fly over just before attempting to land. That was just to
there were no wild animals on the runway. I
told Jim that was the first place I landed where
there were people
standing by on the side of the runway with shotguns.
They were ready to shoot any wild animals
that might wander out onto the runway.
meal was now ready. The rest of our meals were brought out. My fillet mignon was very nice.
It was cooked to perfection as were the twice
baked potatoes. Bob also enjoyed his New York strip.
Lexie's salmon disappeared, so I can only
imagine that she didn't have any complaints either.
we were talking about the Arctic
and fishing, I had remembered seeing a news article about Jim making a
the North Pole. I mentioned this to
Jim. He said that he had actually made
it to both the North and the South poles. His
South Pole excursion occurred when he was on a
meteorites in Antarctica. He
said that their team had found 19 meteorite
specimens while they were in Antarctica
and was proud of the accomplishment.
noticed that Mary was eating very slowly. She
was picking at her fish. Marilyn asked if Mary
didn't like the fish. Remember, Mary was
the test pilot for a brand
new dish from the kitchen. Mary said
that the problem with the fish was that there were a lot of bones in it. The fish tasted great, it was just extremely
difficult to eat. Mary apologized and
explained that she wasn't complaining. Mary told Marilyn that she had
in the restaurant business. She thought the Lovells might want to know
the issue with the bones.
and Marilyn were both very grateful for Mary's honesty. They also
get Mary another dish if she desired one. Marilyn thought they should
serving this dish immediately until it was perfected.
Jim said that they would take it up with the
staff and get the situation corrected. It
was nice to feel comfortable enough with the
Lovells to offer them
had to ask Jim at least one question about his missions during our
dinner. I knew that he had heard all of
questions, thousands of times before. Still,
it just seemed like a missed opportunity if I
didn’t ask him
something mission specific. The question that I finally came up with
"Of your four space flights which one of them would you say was the
easy answer would have been to say Apollo 13. I
wanted to hear what he had to say though.
pondered that question and responded that it would have to be Gemini 7.
answer surprised me. I then said,
"So you found Gemini 7 more difficult than Gemini 12, even though
12 was your first mission as commander?" "Yes" he said.
"By the time Gemini 12 came around space
flight was old hat for me."
commented on how successful and important Gemini 12 was with regard to
previous Eva difficulties. I mentioned
Gene Cernan's problems on Gemini 9. Jim said that all of the previous
their difficulties not only Gemini 9. The
success of Gemini 12 certainly was important. He
said they trained for Buzz's Eva in a
swimming pool in Baltimore.
mentioned that there was an Eva training pool at the Johnson Space Center. He
said it was built in the building that
used to house the centrifuge. I told him
that I was actually in that building during a training exercise for
STS-76 flight. I related how exciting it
was to know that my friend was underwater doing real training while I
the edge of the pool.
also let Jim know that JSC now has a new weightless training facility
Ellington Field. I informed him that the
new one is much larger than the one in the old centrifuge building. I told him that now they can conduct multiple
Eva simulations simultaneously. Marilyn
commented to Jim that I new more about it than he did.
was comfortable at the dinner and was not intimidated.
At one point she asked Jim and Marilyn if
they had heard the joke where the duck goes into a bar. Marilyn looked
and we explained that it was one of Lexie's favorite jokes. Lexie's
duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, "Got Grapes?”
bartender responds "No, we don't have any grapes."
duck leaves and comes back the next day. The
duck asks the bartender, "Got Grapes?"
bartender is irritated and says "No we don't have any grapes and if you
come in here again and ask for grapes, I'll nail your feet to the
duck leaves and comes back the next day. He
asks the bartender "Got nails?"
bartender once again irritated responds "No we don't have any nails!"
the duck says "Got grapes?"
laughed, Marilyn was stoic. Jim turned
to Marilyn and said "You didn't get it did you?" He
then explained the punch line. How many
eight year olds have had the
opportunity to tell a joke to the commander of Apollo 13 over dinner?
entrees were filling, but that didn’t stop anyone from having desert. I
selected the crème
deserts were outstanding.
knew our meal was coming to a close, so I asked Jim if he would mind
autographing a couple of photos and a book. He
said he would be happy to sign the items. One
of the photos was a photo of the damaged
service module from Apollo 13. He
inscribed that with “Houston,
we have a problem.” The other photo was
a photo of him on board Apollo 8. He inscribed that “to Jerry and Mary,
Xmas from Apollo 8.”
had her book signed and I also had him sign a leather bound copy of
Verne’s “From The Earth To The Moon.” Jim
mentioned how accurate many of Verne’s
predictions in the book
also said that he personally suggested to the Apollo 11 crew that they
name the Apollo 11 command module Columbia
because of Columbia
in Verne’s book. I did not realize that
the origin of the Apollo 11 command module name came from Lovell.
asked Jim and Marilyn if there was a place where we could have our
taken with them. Jim suggested that
have our photo taken in front of the restaurant’s bar.
was the most scenic location in the restaurant because of the huge
painting that was displayed behind the bar. The
painting was called “Steeds of Apollo”. The
painting had a connection to Jim Lovell
and the Apollo 13 crew. The horses depicted in the Apollo 13 crew patch
derived from the painting.
was painted by artist Luman Winter. Winter
was commissioned in 1969 to do this painting
by the St. Regis Hotel
in New York. When
the hotel was renovated, the painting
was removed. For many years its location
the filming of Apollo 13, the painting resurfaced at a Superior
auction in Los Angelus. Tom Hanks
his wife to purchase the painting. Hanks
then presented the painting to Jim Lovell as a gift. The painting has
signature display at Lovell’s of Lake Forest. It
was a beautiful backdrop for our group photo.
We said our goodbyes to
Jim and Marilyn. They headed back to talk
with the restaurant
staff about the red snapper fillet problems. We
headed out the door, feeling considerably
enriched for having had
dinner with Jim and Marilyn Lovell.